It's Time To Separate Siblings!

We’re all at that point. . . mid-pandemic, in a world of social injustice and unrest. The weather is changing, distance learning has started, and the entire west-coast is either on fire or smoke-filled. We are tired and scared. Our nervous systems have been in a state of increasing dysregulation for over six months now and to top it off, our kids have been cooped up all summer long. Even if you have been fortunate enough to get outdoors, you likely haven’t been as social or active as in years past.

If you are parenting siblings, a few months ago you were grateful that they had each other to play with. Yet, now they are anxious, fighting, and arguing over everything.


So how do we create space for siblings? 


Parents, it’s time to get creative! School is in session and with that, you probably have some sort of a schedule in place. Make sure to be mindful of siblings needing separation when you are creating this schedule. Instead of trying to get your second grader and preschooler to do math at the same time, assign one math and let the other go in their room for free time. 


Although it is enticing, strive to not have the older siblings supporting the younger siblings in their school work. If it is offered, then great. However, older siblings don’t need the added stress and expectations of supporting the academics of their siblings. They are stressed out enough as it is with their own workload. 


Consider the difference between you Engage one child in one on one special playtime with you while their siblings are doing other tasks. Make sure though, that the sibling(s) who are not spending time with you are doing a preferred activity, otherwise, you might see an increase in behaviors to try and gain your attention. You also need to ensure that you are consistent in giving each of your children their special playtime with you. Perceived fairness is very important to siblings.


Remember, if you can give them 1:1 time proactively they won't demand the time later with negative behaviors. Spending quality 1:1 time with each child is money in the bank of later patience and tolerance for frustration for all of you. If you are going to do the time, you might as well have it be something enjoyable and have longer-lasting effects!

Use the schedule to your advantage! Engage one child in one on one special playtime with you while their siblings are doing other tasks. Make sure though, that the sibling(s) who are not spending time with you are doing a preferred activity, otherwise, you might see an increase in behaviors to try and gain your attention. You also need to ensure that you are consistent in giving each of your children their special playtime with you. Perceived fairness is very important to siblings.


Remember, if you can give them 1:1 time proactively they won't demand the time later with negative behaviors. Spending quality 1:1 time with each child is money in the bank of later patience and tolerance for frustration for all of you. 


Speaking of playdates. . . it seems most people have found some sort of a “pod” or group of people that they feel comfortable and safe spending time with. Be mindful of how your playdates go. If one sibling gets to have a friend over, let them enjoy their social time and engage the other sibling in another activity - or use this time for one on one time with you.ain, taking necessary precautions (masks aren’t going anywhere). Getting out of the house, even for a small amount of time will do wonders for the siblings' relationship. 

Remember we are all under an immense amount of stress right now. No matter how well or not distance learning is going, it is new, hard, challenging, and taxing to our patience. Parents, remember to role model self-care which is important for the whole family to be doing. This may mean they have self-time/private time in their rooms or at least separate rooms to do their own thing. This is a time to encourage regulation and calming techniques like drawing, lego building, and napping into the routine. The siblings can then learn to come out refreshed and have more tolerance and energy to be together. 


Having a sibling is a lifelong blessing. . . however, mid-pandemic it may lose some of its charm and whimsy.

Be mindful of this, name it. Talk about the fact that families can love each other AND they can become frustrated. Both are true and talking about it will help tame the frustration that your siblings are feeling and in turn - lessen the frustration in your household and make parenting a little easier.


Stay Curious & Connected!

Cary M Hamilton & Carrie Pipkin

Photo credit: Hawthorne House Photography

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